Asia-Pacific

Japan footballer Hidetoshi Nakata to raise quake funds

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Media captionWatch: Footballer Hidetoshi Nakata "I had to do something"

Hidetoshi Nakata is arguably the most popular football player in Japan.

During his 10-year career, he played for the national team in three Fifa World Cup tournaments and in the Olympics twice. He retired in 2006.

For the last two weeks, he has been travelling around Asia to seek support for earthquake and tsunami victims in his home country.

"I never say I understand their feelings and situation. I don't think I can understand," he told the BBC.

"But I just want to tell them that we support you even though you can't see me."

The massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck the north-eastern coast of Japan on 11 March, triggering a tsunami.

More than 10,000 people lost their lives. Many more are injured and missing.

Millions of survivors are still affected by a lack of electricity, water and transportation.

'Not forgotten'

Even in the country which experiences many earthquakes, the scale of this disaster is the biggest in living memory.

"When the disaster happened, I was in Hong Kong, just watching it on TV," Mr Nakata said. "I couldn't believe it. I picked up my phone to talk to my family and friends."

He was very quick to act.

"I immediately cancelled all my schedule. Because I had to do something right now. I had to move right now."

He flew to Taiwan where he took part in a charity event on 18 March. A pair of boots and two jerseys that he donated fetched more than $300,000 (£18,800) at auction.

"Sports is really big - especially football is worldwide. Football can bring and connect all the people which is very important right now and also for the future as well," he said.

Mr Nakata is now in Singapore. His Take Action Foundation will stage a charity match against a Singapore League select side on 2 April.

"Here in Singapore, they responded really quickly, they organised these events - the charity gala and the football match in a very short time, which is really great and very meaningful."

"I am really touched by all the other countries which are organising fund-raising events and donating money. I think this is something we can never forget, forever."

"You are not alone," Mr Nakata said with messages from all over the world for the survivors of the disaster.

"I think people are really afraid to be forgotten," he added. "We have to support them for the longer term, not only right now."

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